ESPN is scheduled to announce its lineup of 11 televised "NCAA Bracketbuster" games on Monday, and Iona is perfectly positioned to host one of those telecasts. The games are designed to give the top mid-major schools a chance for a late-season boost to their RPI ranking to increase their chances of either landing an at-large NCAA tournament bid or possibly improve their chances for a higher seed in the tournament should they qualify.
In the latest RPI ranking of schools that have agreed to participate in ESPN's "Bracketbuster" games, Iona is the sixth-ranked team among those scheduled to have home games, and the Gaels (16-6, 8-3 Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference) aren't likely to drop out of the top 11 before the TV games are set. According to a school source, the opponent is likely to be either Western Carolina (16-5, 6-3 Southern Conference) or College of Charleston (13-8, 8-2 Southern Conference), the sixth- and eighth-ranked away teams, respectively. Both lost last night, while Iona topped lowly Marist.
Both of Iona's potential opponents scored upsets earlier this season against schools from major conferences. Western Carolina, which defeated Charleston at home by 10 earlier this week, won by 12 at Louisville of the Big East and also notched an important road win over mid-major Bradley of the Missouri Valley Conference. College of Charleston, which is coached by former Bronx prep star Bobby Cremins, somehow lured defending national champion North Carolina to its cozy gym in Charleston, where the Knicks used to train, and knocked off the Tar Heels in overtime, 82-79.
Iona's signature win this season came on the road at Providence of the Big East. In early-season tournament action, the Gaels also lost in OT to Baylor of the Big 12 and by five to Florida State of the Atlantic Coast Conference.
All together, 98 schools have agreed to participate in the "Bracketbuster" games, but technically, only the 11 televised games are considered "Bracketbusters." The rest of the participating schools are paired up by a panel of commissioners from the participating leagues. For instance, Hofstra (10-12, 3-7 Colonial Athletic Association) also is scheduled to host a "Bracketbuster" game, all of which are scheduled either Feb. 20 or 21. But the Pride won't really benefit because the only way for them to reach the NCAA tournament is by winning the CAA tournament, and even then, its record would guarantee a seed around 13-15.
Word out of Hofstra is the opponent, which can't come from the same league, likely will be Rider (12-11, 5-6 MAAC) or Boston University (11-10, 6-3 America East).
Here is the current list of top 11 "home" and "away" teams eligible for "Bracketbuster" TV games on ESPN in order of RPI ranking:
1. Siena 18-4, 11-0 MAAC
2. Old Dominion 17-5, 9-1 CAA
3. William & Mary 14-6, 6-4 CAA
4. Wichita St. 18-4, 7-3 Missouri Valley Conf.
5. Louisiana Tech 18-3, 7-3 Western Athletic Conf.
6. Western Carolina 16-5, 6-3 Southern Conf.
7. Nevada 12-8, 4-3 WAC
8. College of Charleston 13-8, 8-2 SC
9. Buffalo 10-7, 3-3 Mid-American Conf.
10. Indiana St. 12-9, 4-6 MVC
11. Western Michigan 11-8, 3-3 MAC
1. Northern Iowa 18-2, 9-1 MVC
2. Butler 16-4, 9-0 Horizon Conf.
3. Virginia Commonwealth 14-5, 6-4 CAA
4. Northeastern 13-8, 8-2 CAA
5. Utah St. 15-6, 5-2 WAC
6. Iona 16-6, 8-3 MAAC
7. Kent St. 13-7, 4-2 MAC
8. Missouri St. 15-6, 5-5 MVC
9. Murray St. 19-3, 10-0 Ohio Valley Conf.
10. Bradley 10-10, 5-5 MVC
11. Pacific 13-6, 6-1 Big West Conf.